The Independent Bikers Toys for Tots is celebrating a 31-year relationship with the Bernard Fineson Developmental Center. Our work is to improve and enhance the quality of life for the residents. We are best known for the annual pre-Christmas Toy Run, which began with 17 motorcycles, and has grown to a holiday event with thousands of bikes forming a miles long parade of well-wishers.The Bernard Fineson Center is under the wing of the state of New York, Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. It serves kids and adults who are mildly to severely retarded and disabled: by birth defects, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy. They are also victims of accidents. Many are ambulatory, some walk with the help of a developmental aide, while others are confined to wheelchairs and hospital beds. Speech is often one of their limitations. But, on Toy Run Sunday, you see the lights go on in every pair of eyes and around the gymnasium.
The Independent Bikers Toys for Tots (IBTFT) is a registered, non-profit organization, staffed completely by volunteers who give their time, labor and resources for the residents of the Fineson Center. Over 97% of every dollar raised goes to the residents. Fund-raisers, raffles and solicitations are conducted annually. We also have a line of souvenirs including: T-shirts, bumper stickers, patches, and pins.
Since 1981, the IBTFT has given the Fineson Centers new basketball & Shuffleboard courts, 2 above ground pools, a pavilion with access ramps, restrooms, barbecue grills and lawn furniture, exercise equipment, electrical hospital beds, wheelchairs, recreation room equipment and furnishings. In 1999, we helped the residents of the Bernard Fineson Center at the Hillside facility realize their dream of a greenhouse, so that they can learn gardening skills and have something to care for.
With the generous support of our contributors, group excursions to Nassau Coliseum were made available to see different shows. Among the shows we have seen: The Christmas Spectacular, Ringling Bros. Barnum Bailey Circus (each year), Harlem Globetrotters, Walt Disney World on Ice, Aladdin on Ice, and the World Wrestling Federation. We have taken groups of residents on fishing charters; also for a weeklong visit to Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida, also a group of about 200 residents were able to see a circus under the big top at the Big Apple Circus. A group of clients were able to attend a private viewing of "The Fantastic Four" at the UA Theater complete with pizza, popcorn and soda. We have put two new gazebos at the facilities, one on the Hillside grounds and one on the Howard Beach grounds. We have been able to put a new pool at the Hillside Facility as well as refurbish the basketball court at the facility. August, 2007 we put a new 42" High Definition TV in the recreation room at the Bernard Fineson Facility in Howard Beach, the clients can watch their favorite shows while relaxing!! This year (2006) the clients of the Fineson Centers and Group Homes were able to spend time out at cottages in Greenport, Long Island. They spent time there from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day weekend. This year (2007) the clients were able to go back to the cottages at Greenpoint, Long Island, to spend time there from Memorial Day to Labor Day. They enjoy the beach and BBQ'ing. Their days are filled with sun and fun!!!! May of 2008, the clients were not only able to go back to the cottages at Greenpoint, but three clients were also able to attend camp. Every year, summer barbecues are held for the residents of the different Center campuses. The Howard Beach facility had the chance to participate in the area centennial with a barbecue and seeing the parade. Every August since 1993, the Hillside facility hold it's Annual Carnival; which included music, games, a barbecue and the day is topped off with watermelon and ice cream. Each year we follow the residents to the Queens Special Olympics and root them on to different medals, every one of the participants comes away a winner. And, for the 31 years, Santa's been coming a few weeks early, on a thundering 2-wheeled sleigh.
All of this benefits the residents of the Bernard Fineson Developmental Center in Queens. According to the Director of Volunteer Services, over 85% of donations received by the Fineson Center are from the IBTFT. To increase volunteer spirit, high school students are recruited to learn about the project and work with the residents. To recognize this effort, the IBTFT awards the "I've Got a Friend" Scholarship. This year, 10 worthy students received $600 each.
Because of our efforts, the Center nominated the IBTFT for various awards, of which we were honored to receive the Points of Light Foundation award from President Clinton, and a NYC Mayoral award, both for community volunteer services. Lastly, we were selected by Community Heroes & United Way to have a member of IBTFT carry the 1996 Summer Olympic Torch through a section of New York City. In 1997, IBTFT appeared on a weekly TV program dedicated to volunteer organizations who give back to their communities. December 1997, Biography Magazine featured IBTFT with a story of how and where we started, what we have done, and what we hope to do for the residents of the center in the future.
Why do we do this? Not for the awards and recognition, but for the thrill of watching the residents' faces light up with joy and excitment as thousands of motorcycles pull up bearing toys and cheer. This rewards us as much as it does them. These people, despite their limitations, teach us how every life has value and deserves consideration. As motorcyclists, WE know how image leads to misunderstanding. So many of us are parents, and count our blessings of our healthy children, as we are reminded how fragile life can be.
WE WANT TO DO MORE! With volunteers and the generous donations from all types of businesses, this work has made a great impact.
Your support can mean improved facilities, and the capacity to provide services to more people whose lives lack much of what we take for granted. The first Toy Run raised about $200 in cash and toys. In 2004, approx 2,500 bikes rode; the total value donated was over $40,000. Each year we have the opportunity to grow and do more with the residents.
Join us at the Toy Run, which will be held in October on the Sunday before Halloween. Due to the recent weather patterns, we are hoping that the weather will be warmer and will make the day more comfortable, safer and more enjoyable to all. We feel the quality of life and one's dignity are important to all human beings, and the more you give, the more you will get back.
We are all part of the Human Family.
32nd Annual Toy Run - Sunday October 28th, 2012
Call for information on upcoming events or to volunteer.
Tax-deductible donations can be sent to:
Independent Bikers Toys for Tots
PO Box 210090
Woodhaven, NY 11421
We gratefully thank all our volunteers, supporters and contributors.